Media: Hopeful ‘pavement people’ meet officials

22 01 2009

Note: The full quote of Ashraf Cassiem was “They [the housing department] told us that they cannot help us. That we must set up a meeting with Thubelisha, the private company managing the N2 Gateway, because only they have control over housing allocation since there is no longer a waiting list.  This is what happens when the government privatises housing”
January 22, 2009 Edition 2
Natasha Prince
Source: Cape Argus

A group of people who have been living on a pavement in Delft for almost a year have met housing officials to try to convince them that they need houses urgently.

Many of the pavement dwellers of Symphony Way belong to the Anti-Eviction Campaign.

Lee-Ann Erasmus sat in front of the housing department in Wale street nursing her four-month-old baby for two hours yesterday while fellow members of the campaign met representatives from the housing department.

Her daughter Hope was “almost born on the pavement”, she said.

Erasmus, her husband Theo and oldest daughter Beyoncé who is three, were among the group evicted from the Symphony Way houses they illegally occupied last year.

Theo Erasmus said they named their youngest daughter Hope Tamia Erasmus as a symbol of their optimism that things would get better.

He was hoping to get keys for a house as they waited yesterday.

For the past year he has woken early to collect firewood to make a fire and boil water to feed and wash his daughters in the makeshift structure they built along the pavement.

He is not employed and lives uncomfortably, but says he is certain things will improve.

“We’re making the best of a bad situation and we make it as comfortable as we can, but I won’t move … my father always said a king is not king without a castle,” he said.

When campaign representatives emerged, they did not have house keys as anticipated.

Ashraf Cassiem, from the campaign, said they were disappointed.

“The government cannot help us,” he said.

They were promised another meeting with officials “to plot the way forward”.

Media liaison officer for the provincial housing department, Lukhanyo Calata, said the department was happy with the outcome of the meeting because it “paved a way forward”.

“It gives us a chance to determine what the people from Symphony Way want and how we can assist,” he said.

The pavement people of Symphony Way are among the 410 000 people on the government’s waiting list and have been fighting for houses for years.

Protests and pickets, the illegal occupation of private houses built by Thubelisha Homes and meetings are their means of making their voices heard.

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